Four lorry drivers parked their vehicles across Heydar Aliyev avenue in Baku, halting traffic on the country’s largest highway. The men were protesting being denied permits that would allow them to transport goods across the Azerbaijani border.
Traffic was blocked from approximately 6:00 to 11:00 on 17 February, before traffic police arrived on the scene, and the drivers moved their vehicles and returned home.
A slogan written on one of the lorries read: ‘It is Anar Rzayev, the head of the State Motor Transport Service, and Malik Aliyev, the head of the traffic regulation department, who brought us to this point. Give us the permits. The products are deteriorating and we have gone bankrupt.’
All four drivers were detained by police in their homes later that day.
Ramish Jafarov's father, Zakram Jafarov, told RFE/RL that at around noon ‘15 people in black masks’ entered his home and ‘took [his] son’. He also claimed that the men took several security cameras that were placed in and around his property, including some that belonged to his neighbours.
‘A few days ago, President Ilham Aliyev spoke about the importance of supporting entrepreneurs. What has happened to us now?’ the elder Jafarov said.
After his son’s arrest, Zakram, accompanied by human rights activists Rufat Safarov and Zaur Akbar went to the Narimanov district police precinct where Ramish was being held.
The two activists, who are members of Defence Line, a human rights watchdog, were detained by police outside of the station and released several hours later. After their release, the two men claimed that they had been ‘physically abused’ during their detention.
Interior Ministry spokesman Ehsan Zahidov denied the activists’ claims of abuse in a statement given to Turan. He said that the two men were detained because they sought to film in front of the precinct, which was ‘not allowed’, but that they were not beaten or otherwise abused.
On the evening of 17 February, Anar Rzayev gave an extensive interview to Azerbaijan’s public broadcaster, in which he explained that there are only a limited number of permits for lorry drivers and that they are distributed publicly to prevent abuse.
In his comments to RFE/RL Zakram Jafarov questioned the veracity of Rzayev’s comments.
‘Previously, there was no issue of permits’, he said. ‘If these are private cars, why do I need a permit?"
The detained drivers have since appeared in a video filmed at a police precinct that aired on local television, apologising for their actions.
The Narimanov district has sentenced two of the drivers, Elvin Malikov and Miralam Mammadov, to 30 days in prison for disobeying police and petty hooliganism. Ramish Jafarov has been sentenced to two months in prison. One driver has been released.